Tough questions ignored in Iran debacle

Last Friday, the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations hosted a webcast with President Obama to address concerns of American Jews over the yet unsigned and unratified P5+1 – Iran “Nuclear Deal,” the “JCPA.”
After watching the recording twice and studying the transcript, it’s my opinion that the “understandable concerns,” as the president defines them, were not addressed in any serious way.
In a long and predictable set-up monologue, the president reiterated his administration’s talking points about: his “commitment that Iran would not get a nuclear weapon” and his conviction that … “This deal blocks every way — every pathway that Iran might take in order to obtain a nuclear weapon.”
After detailing Iran’s “commitments” according to the JCPA the president said: “So you have the existing facilities being transformed. You have a commitment in which stockpiles of highly enriched uranium are being shipped out. We create then a verification and inspection mechanism across the entire nuclear production chain within Iran that is unprecedented — more rigorous than anything that has ever been negotiated in the history of nuclear nonproliferation.”
He also claimed that: “And we also preserve the capacity to snap back all the various sanctions provisions” if Iran cheated.
Moderators Michael Siegal, JFNA chairman, and Stephen Greenberg, Chairman of the Conference of Presidents first asked two “softball” questions about:
The acrimonious name-calling negative rhetoric between proponents and opponents of the deal.
Whether America “will continue to help Israel maintain its strategic and qualitative military edge in the region”?
Here are the summaries of the president’s responses:
I think that people of goodwill can come down on different sides of this issue …
Yes. That’s always been a priority of ours.
The chairmen’s questions became somewhat more serious:
“Aren’t you concerned that after 15 years, Iran will have access to the highly enriched uranium that they need to build a nuclear weapon…?”
“Do you worry at that time that Iran might build as large a nuclear infrastructure as they want?”
“What about others in the region? And do you expect that others will also insist on building comparable nuclear infrastructures?”
“And then lastly, and importantly, how does this deal reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation in the region?”
The president’s rather long answers to the above can be summarized as:
Is that possible? Absolutely.
In 15 years, if, in fact, what the critics say is true, and they have just been playing a waiting game, or this deal just was a pause button, I have every confidence that the president of the United States, 15 years from now, is going to be in a position … to take actions that are necessary, including potentially militarily force to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon.
Did not respond to the question.
By restricting Iran for 10-15 years
Good questions, with predictable, “talking points” answers.
But…I would have liked to hear a few more questions — more direct and less spin:
Was the “JCPA” ever signed? If so — by whom? We know the Iranians didn’t, according to them.
Don’t the two “secret” agreements signed by the IAEA and Iran, where Iran will self-inspect the nuclear military facility at Parchin, not to mention the “no military base or undeclared site clauses,” negate your claim of “vigorous verification and inspection mechanism across the entire nuclear production chain within Iran that is unprecedented”?
And what happened to your promise of “robust, anytime/anywhere” inspections?
How can you “snap-back” sanctions with thousands of international companies already visiting Teheran with their country’s Trade and Commerce ministers, and closing contracts? Or with Russia, China, Germany, France and the UK (the P5) jumping in, too?
On what basis do you claim that the JCPA improves Israel’s security, when Israel’s elected leaders, nuclear experts, military, intelligence and security chiefs unanimously say it doesn’t?
Earlier this month David Albright, former IAEA lead nuclear inspector and president of the Institute for Science and International Security, testified at a Senate hearing that even if Iran follows the procedures laid out in the recent nuclear deal, it can still “break out” to nuclear weapons capability in as little as six to seven months, and not a year as you have claimed.
Another testimony from Dr. Robert Joseph, former under secretary of state for Arms Control and International Security, also criticized the deal because it “recognizes and legitimizes a path to nuclear weapons, provides for ineffective verification, fails to prevent breakout, and fails to limit Iran’s ballistic missile development.”
Moreover, Dr. Joseph argued that the deal increases the likelihood of nuclear proliferation in the region, undermining the nonproliferation regime and the IAEA, and enabling a more aggressive and repressive Iranian regime, thereby increasing the prospect of conflict and war. He called for Congress to reject the deal because “a bad agreement is worse than no agreement.”
So, Mr. President, please tell us how you reconcile these two diametrically opposing narratives: one from your administration, the other from experts and scientists with years of nuclear nonproliferation experience.
These are the questions I would really have liked to hear asked…and answered.
Agree or disagree, that’s my opinion.
Lt. Col. (IDF res) Gil Elan is president and CEO of the Southwest Jewish Congress, and a Middle East analyst. Email:
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